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New technology perplexes supply chain professionals, says DHL report

[ March 5, 2018   //   ]

New technologies and solutions are developing rapidly and disrupting industries on multiple fronts, with firms struggling to keep up, says DHL in its latest research report on digitalization in the supply chain

The global survey of nearly 350 supply chain and operations professionals reveals that 95% of respondents are not fully capitalizing on the potential benefits that physical innovation and information/analytics offer.

‘Digitalization and the supply chain: Where are we and what’s next?’ by president of the lharrington group Lisa Harrington considered next-generation robotics, artificial intelligence, drones, blockchain, big data analytics and sensors among others.

Respondents ranked big data analytics as the most important information solution with 73% reporting that their company was investing in this technology, ahead of cloud-based applications at 63%, the Internet of Things (IOT) at 54%, blockchain at 51%, machine learning at 46% and the sharing economy at 34%. Importance in physical hardware has focused on robotics with 63% of respondents ranking it as the most important physical technology, beating AVs at 40%, 3D printing at 33%, and augmented reality and drones at 28%.

Harrington said, “There is no doubt that digitalization is having an incredible impact on supply chains and operations across the globe and is here to stay. Companies are faced with many options as new products and applications enter the market and gain acceptance in the industry. Having a purposeful strategy for supply chain digitalization is now essential to assess the new technological landscape and chart a way forward to reap the benefits and stay ahead of the competition.”

Businesses are beginning to test the waters with 39% reporting that they are developing one or more information or analytics solution, but only 31% are doing the same for physical applications. For hardware technology applications, 68% of respondents said that reliability was the top concern, while 65% reported a resistance to change in their organization followed by insufficient or prolonged return on investment at 64%. Comparatively, for information and analytics solutions, 78% of respondents reported that organizational siloes and legacy systems were the top impediments, followed by a lack of specialized talent expertise at 70%.

DHL says it already uses augmented reality in warehouses to improve picking and warehouse robots are saving time and supporting employees in repetitive tasks such as packaging. Software robots (robotics process automation) are taking over selected back-office processes. New sensors are providing our customers with real time information about the location and condition of their goods, using Internet of Things.

DHL is also looking into the Blockchain and is partnering with Accenture to test a concept that is aimed at preventing the counterfeiting of drugs. This trial incorporates blockchain into the pharmaceutical supply chain via a track-and-trace serialization system, allowing secure capture of the unique identifier of each unit of a pharmaceutical shipment as it moves through the supply chain.